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Co-ops to help homeowners save money on rooftop solar panels

Tampa Bay Area property owners have yet another incentive to go solar: the solar co-op. By banding together to buy rooftop solar systems, landowners can save up to 20 percent.

“We’re hoping that we get more than 100 signed up that would be interested in pursuing rooftop solar,” says Dr. Rick Garrity, a Volunteer Coordinator with Hillsborough League of Women Voters, a partner in the co-op project.

The nonprofit Florida Solar United Neighborhoods is collaborating with the League of Women Voters, Hillsborough County, the Environmental Protection Commission of Hillsborough County and others to spread the word about co-ops. It held a meeting at the University of South Florida in Tampa September 25 to explain more about the opportunity to purchase discounted solar photovoltaic (PV) systems.

“There’s never been a better time to go solar. Prices came down 65 percent in the last five years,” explains Garrity, who retired two years ago as Director of the county’s Environmental Protection Commission. “You get a 30 percent tax credit from the federal government, right off the income tax bill.”

Here’s how the program works. When about 40 sign up, Florida Sun puts out the specifications to vendors, who submit bids. “Florida Sun will then evaluate the bids, rank them and provide that ranking to the homeowners,” he explains.

Homeowners form a committee that decides which installer to use.

Members of the co-op don’t need to live in the same neighborhood, but they need to live in the designated city or county. The co-op remains open for about three months to sign up any additional members.

Folks who are interested in going solar can sign up at the Florida Sun website, without obligating themselves to buy a system. They also can RSVP for area information meetings at the website.

Three informational meetings are scheduled in Hillsborough County, the first one from 6 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. Monday, October 9, at South Shore Regional Library, Community Rooms 1 and 2, 15816 Beth Shields Way, Ruskin. Additional meetings are planned from 6 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. Wednesday, November 8, at Jimmie B. Keel Regional Library, Community Rooms C and D, 2902 West Bearss Ave., Tampa; and from 6 p.m. to 8:30 p.m., Tuesday, December 5, at Seminole Heights Branch Library, Community Rooms A and B, 4711 Central Ave., Tampa.

Pinellas County residents living north of State Road 60 can also sign up for a co-op. Informational meetings are scheduled from 5:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. Tuesday, October 10, at the Clearwater Library, 100 North Osceola Ave.; from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. Thursday, November 9, at the Tarpon City Government Office, 324 East Pine St.; and from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m., Monday, December 4, at the Safety Harbor Library, 101 2nd St. N.

A home solar system can cut your monthly power bill to $5 a month, but reducing the carbon footprint is important too, Garrity says.

“You’re doing your own little bit to decrease the amount of fossil fuels that are being burned,” he says.


QDI to move to Channel District, downtown Tampa

Fifteen years ago it was only a vision. Today, there is a truly walkable retail neighborhood in Tampa’s Channel District, with restaurants, a hair salon, dry cleaners, pub and Grand Central at Kennedy condominiums.

Now Quality Distribution Inc. has signed a new 10-year lease at the $145 million mixed used development at Kennedy Boulevard and Meridian Avenue. It is expected to move in Sept. 1 and relocate about 250 employees to the location.

“It’s certainly the largest office deal in the market this year,” says Ken Stoltenberg, co-director of Mercury Advisors, developer of the project.

QDI, a global supplier of liquid bulk transportation, logistics and depot services, signed a lease for 45,000 square foot on the ground floor of the development that includes condominiums and retail. A 38,000-square-foot Publix Super Market, now under construction adjacent to Grand Central, is slated to open in the last quarter of 2018.

“Our hope is to be a catalyst for other companies to consider relocating here,” Stoltenberg says.

He called the new lease for 1208 E. Kennedy Blvd. a “stamp of validation” for the area. “We only have 11 condos units left to sell,” he adds.

QDI, which will relocate from 4041 Park Oaks Blvd. near Brandon, provides services to many Fortune 500 companies, including Procter & Gamble, Dow Chemical Company and PPG Industries.

The buildout for its new headquarters is being financed by Bank of the Ozarks.

There remains just under 40,000 square feet to lease at Grand Central and “several tenants interested,” says Stoltenberg, who is partnering with Frank Bombeeck.

Grand Central’s East and West buildings were constructed in 2007, but the west unit didn’t sell out before the 2008 recession. The property received approval last year for 3- to 5-percent financing rates through the Federal National Mortgage Association, known as Fannie Mae, as long as buyers would make units their primary residence.

Mercury Advisors is developing Channel Club with a 22-story residential highrise at 1105 E. Twiggs St.


Jobs Roundup: Who is hiring? Home Depot, Vistra Communications, CWU Inc., City of Clearwater

The Atlanta-based Home Depot is in a spring hiring spree, with plans to hire some 1,350 in the greater Tampa area during March, or by early April. Its goal is to hire more than 80,000 associates in all of its stores and distribution centers for the season.

“Some of those have already been hired,” says Matt Harrigan, a Home Depot spokesman. “Spring is always our busiest time of year. ... It’s kind of like Christmas in our stores. Its really our holiday season.”

Home Depot is hiring for a “mix” of positions, depending on the individual store’s needs, he says. It will fill positions for cashiers, lot associates, garden and freight personnel. Full, part-time and temporary positions may be available.

About half of the typical, 90-day-seasonal workers stay on after the rush, and can apply their hours toward company benefits, Harrigan says.

Those benefits include profit sharing, tuition assistance, discounted stock purchases, and 401Ks. Employees also have access to the company's associate discount site, where they can purchase cell phones, electronics, gym memberships and other items.

Salaries vary by store location and employee qualifications, Harrigan says.

Home Depot announced its streamlined online application process earlier this month. It optimized the process for mobile use, reducing estimated application time from 90 to 15 minutes, he explains.

It offers job-related training on product lines, computers and other skills associated with their assignment.

“Primarily we look for just someone who is passionate about customer service,” Harrigan adds. “Our focus is always to find associates that will fit our orange-blooded culture.”

Employees typically wear an orange apron saying “I put customers first.” The company’s core values include taking care of customers and each other, the entrepreneurial spirit, giving back to the community, veterans' housing and other home improvement projects, he says.

With 30 stores in the greater Tampa area, it’s one of Home Depot’s larger markets, he says.

The company’s website advertises jobs are “in bloom” and people can “put down roots where they really can grow.” It indicates 16- and 17-year-olds in Florida are welcome to apply for store support/lot associate, customer service/sales associate (garden) and cashier jobs.

Home Depot, which has a total of 2,278 retail stores, racked up $94.6 billion in sales during the 2016 fiscal year, earning $8 billion.

Here are some other job opportunities in Tampa Bay.

• Vistra Communications has moved its headquarters to Lutz and is planning to hire 50 new employees by 2022, doubling its size and pumping $1.3 million into the economy. Vistra was founded in 2007 and serves corporate, government and nonprofit clients. It is a nationally recognized, full-service communications and professional solutions agency. Submit your resume or learn more about current opportunities here.

• CWU Inc. recently announced plans to move from Clearwater to Tampa and add 20 new jobs by 2018. The company, founded in 2004, also is moving 30 existing positions to Tampa. It provides direct operational and training support services to more than 90 federal agencies. Learn more.

• The city of Clearwater is advertising ongoing employment opportunities on its website for a library volunteer coordinator, library intern, seasonal marine operator, social events staff, beach lifeguards, wastewater plant operators, and school crossing guards. Applicants should print out an application here, fill it out and submit it to Municipal Services Building at 100 South Myrtle Avenue, Clearwater, FL, or fax it to (727) 562-4877. No online applications are being accepted for these positions.


Engineering firm in Tampa adding 5 new positions

An engineering firm in Tampa is gearing up to create five new jobs in the next year. 

VHB, an engineering science planning design firm, with an active footprint on Florida's Gulf coast since the early 1960s is opening up an office in downtown Tampa. Based out of Watertown, MA, the company has 23 offices along the Eastern seaboard. This will be the third office to open in Florida, with two others in Orlando and Sarasota. 

The new office in Tampa will focus on creating urban living spaces, increasing mobility and developing more sustainable communities in the region. Due to the area's increased interest in improving communities through urban living, the company saw a fit for its presence in the conversation. 

"A lot of the type of work we are doing, especially in the areas of transportation and environmental work, we feel we can do here to make an important impact on what is going on in the Tampa Bay region," says  Margaret Kubilins, Traffic Engineering Manager and Southeast Region Pedestrian and Bicycle Leader for VHB. 

She cites the upbeat and active climate, as well as the enthusiasm in the community for urban living as reasons why the company is expanding in Tampa. 

"It’s exciting to be in an area that is experiencing so much growth," she says. Kubilins and her team look forward to working on public projects, and have an interest in becoming part of many projects including Tampa's downtown, design of the west bank of the Hillsborough River and downtown St. Petersburg. The firm has worked on creating healthy, sustainable communities throughout Florida, including Parramore in Orlando. 

"The whole public environment component is really important," Kubilins says. "Looking beyond just land uses, but evaluating how communities can be healthier with safe paths for walking and biking, and ensuring quality food is accessible. All of this is part of what we look at when we plan communities."

To help with this effort, the firm will be adding at least five to its Tampa office headcount. Kubilins says the company will be recruiting an Environmental Scientist, a Water Specialist, and engineers.  She hopes to have all five positions filled by summer of next year. 

For more information on the company and its career opportunities, click here

Solar co-op arrives in St. Petersburg, Sunshine City

Residents of St. Peterburg are serious about solar energy.

The city is the first in the area to develop a solar co-op committed to drive the city of St. Petersburg to 100-percent renewable energy. The idea for the co-op came about from a partnership between the Suncoast Sierra Club and the League of Women Voters of the St. Petersburg.

“We discovered that the League of Women Voters had been looking at developing a program like the East Orange co-op in Orlando, so we worked with the League and Community Power Network to bring a solar co-op program to St. Pete,” says Emily Gorman, Sierra Club 100% St. Pete Campaign Manager. “The St. Pete Solar Co-op is the first of its kind in the state as it is open to both home and business owners.”

Gorman says the co-op makes going solar easier and more affordable, with a payback period seen within 10 years of the system's 25-plus year lifetime. She cites East Orange co-op members who are saving more than $200 per month on their electricity costs.

Aside from the savings residents can see in their bills, Gorman states there is a larger economic byproduct of going solar.

“Solar installers are small, local companies. So, in addition to saving money on their own energy costs, solar panel owners stimulate local economy by keeping their dollars close to home.”

Those interested in learning more about the co-op are invited to attend an information session. The first session was held on July 28th at the Sunshine Center. There were approximately 80 people in attendance, with over 50 homeowners who registered with the co-op. Gorman says residents will still be able to sign up and join until December 2016.

For more information, visit Florida Solar United Neighborhoods.

Citi seeks to fill 100+ new jobs at Tampa headquarters

Citi’s recent decision to move jobs from its offices in Hartford, CT to the Tampa Bay Area, means more than 100 local jobs for skilled workers. Positions vary from compliance analysts to various HR positions, management to IT.

The number of employees being recruited by Citi to work in the Bay Area will grow as the company creates over 1,100 jobs by 2018 in exchange for approximately $15 million in incentives from the state of Florida and Hillsborough County.

“Our commitment to Florida is underscored by our decision to locate more of our U.S. employees here than in any other state, after New York,” says Citi CEO Michael Corbat.

Several vital business operational units are run out of Citi’s Tampa offices, including HR and accounting, as well as the company’s anti-laundering department.

“4,500 employees provide client service and risk modeling at our center in Tampa, which is also a hub for our anti money laundering efforts,” Corbat says.

As part of the agreement Citi made with the state and Hillsborough, the jobs are expected to pay an average of $75,000.

Corbat says that he not only hopes to bring jobs to the area, but plans to help local residents as well.

“Last year we provided more than $400 million in loans for affordable housing just here in Florida, he says. “And we extended more than $200 million in credit and loans to thousands of small businesses across the state. We’re proud of all the things we’ve done and will continue to do for our customers, clients and communities across the U.S. and around the world.”

To view the open positions at Citi, click here.

Impromptu popup gallery features art by newcomer to Tampa

In an innovative trifecta of art, marketing and real estate, art consultant Kathy Gibson of Arthouse3 will present Tampa newcomer and artist Taylor Thomas’s body of work entitled “The Chase.”  

The impromptu exhibit will take place at an empty South Tampa loft whose owner, Michael Palori, hopes will also spur interest from potential renters. The exhibit will be held at 1617 West Platt Street in South Tampa, March 4-6th. 

“All of us are looking for a way to enjoy our business, celebrating talent and new development,” says Gibson who has done this before, in empty houses. She says the art sold, and the houses, too. She is expecting success here, too. “A modern abstract in a loft space, attracts people in general. Tampa is building and changing and becoming more and more contemporary.”

Though this is Taylor’s debut exhibit in Tampa, she is represented around the country by various galleries. She relocated from Nashville in November to be closer to her Tampa-native boyfriend, Will Wellman, catalyst and raison d’etre of the Pig Jig Foundation which raises money for Nephcure Kidney International. In 2014, she was awarded a Regional Artist Project Grant from Charlotte’s Arts & Science Council to travel to Bennington VT and study under Cullen Washington, Jr. -- a contemporary artist whose work, she says, inspires and challenges her. 

Gibson, who describes her role as  “an art finder, an art communicator” connects businesses and individuals with artists and works. Gibson describes Taylor’s body of work for The Chase as a collection of “deeply, richly layered colored abstracts,” about 20 pieces in all sizes from small drawings to 4’ x 6’ works. Pricing ranges from $100 to $3,500 or more, depending on size. 

Palori, whose family has been long-involved with Tampa real estate, with major commercial and residential holdings throughout the city, says the loft, one of three 1,000-square-foot units over a restaurant, was transformed from what was once a printing warehouse. He says he likes the idea of the pop up art and says it fits with the character of his building. “I think its good for the area, and good exposure in the meantime.”

Taylor says her previous exhibitions have been in conventional settings but says this space is “spontaneously ideal -- it nearly mirrors what one would often look for in a gallery space: clean walls, concrete floors, an influx of natural light. The drool-worthy garage door that opens up to a balcony is definitely the cherry on top.” 

The Chase will be open to the public Friday, March 4th, 5-8 p.m.; Saturday, March 5th, 1-6 pm; and Sunday, March 6th, 1-4 pm. For more information on the exhibit, click here. For more information the apartment, click here

Tampa father, son build tiny house as model for others

A father-and-son duo in Valrico are hoping to make a big impact with their little house. The 200-square-foot-home the two are building together will soon be going on a 20-city tour across the U.S. to teach others the importance of quality control in construction practices.

Paul Lynch, the patriarch of the team, is an attorney with Shumaker, Loop and Kendrick, LLP based out of downtown Tampa. Working with his eldest son, Corbett Lunsford, the two are building the tiny house to be efficient, with solar panels, a composting toilet, sensors built into the walls to measure performance and the highest-quality non-toxic materials available.

“My son is an expert in testing homes, like a doctor for houses, and in his view and those of his fans, once you have metrics about your home you can make educated decisions and get control,'' says Lynch. “Like the craze for Fitbit pedometers, or feedback displays in new cars, better information about how the things we own are performing means we become better owners.”

The first stop on the 20-city tour will be in St. Augustine in April 2016. For the purpose of the tour, the tiny house will be called the 'tiny lab' due to its innovative features including technology from Mitsubishi that uses an infrared eye to sense areas in the home that need the temperature adjusted. During the tour, Lunsford and his team will spend one week in each city offering tours, workshops and contractor training.

During the tour, Lunsford and his wife will also be taping a TV show called Home Diagnosis and a web series called Ms. Tiny Detective. According to Lynch, it really is a family effort.

“Not a lot of guys get the opportunity to build a house with their kids, so I'm trying to enjoy the whole thing,” he says. “Obviously it's a bit stressful, we're building a house that has to withstand a hurricane and earthquake at the same time. But it's going to make great memories, and I'm proud of what we've already accomplished with the structure.”

For more information on the tour, visit their website.

Tampa Housing Authority uses personal touch to make an impact on homelessness

According to a count conducted in February 2014, there are just over 2,200 homeless men, women and children in the Tampa area. Tampa Housing Authority is doing its part to eradicate this through individual outreach and assessment.

The Housing Authority manages affordable housing and support services to help Tampa residents achieve economic self-sufficiency. Recently, the agency asked staff member Patricia Wingo to conduct outreach to get to know Tampa’s homeless population on a more personal level. Wingo spends three to four hours per day talking to individuals and learning their stories, including how they came to be homeless and the best way to help them.

"She has fallen in love with going out and talking to the homeless," says Lillian Stringer, director of public relations for Tampa Housing Authority. "She knows them by name. She tells their story."

Wingo has heard some remarkable stories, like Monsita a 53-year old woman who earned a Master’s Degree in Speech Pathology. A medical condition has left her homeless for the past six years. There’s also Samuel, who after working for 20 years was not able to receive social security benefits because his company didn’t take out taxes. Or Crystal, a wife and mother of 10. She and her husband worked for the same company and became homeless when they unexpectedly lost their jobs.

Wingo uses an assessment called the Vulnerability Index & Service Prioritization Decision Assistance Tool (VI SPDAT) a screening tool which determines each person’s mental state and helps place them into the necessary programs. At first, she found she wasn’t trusted by the homeless and received comments like "you’re just gonna do like everybody else does…nothing." They’re learning that she’s proving them wrong. In all, she has assessed 20 people thus far and placed them on a wait list for housing.

The personal outreach and assessment, as well as other re-housing programs, were made possible by a $60,000 Federal Emergency Solutions Grant.

The Housing Authority recently participated in a nationwide program called 25 Cities Initiative, a national program aimed at assisting 25 cities with ending veteran and chronic homelessness. The program helps train staff to conduct assessments and coordinates other services.

On November 1, a 5K run will be held in Gadsden Park in Tampa, with proceeds benefitting families receiving assistance through the homeless programs. Funding will provide the families with housing, food, blankets and housewares.

Tampa Housing Authority works with a number of local partners, including the City of Tampa’s Affordable Housing Office, Tampa Crossroads, Metropolitan Ministries, Catholic Charities, the Veterans Administration, Francis House and Tampa Hillsborough Homeless Initiative.

Omega Communities, Sarasota Churches To Develop Senior Living Communities, Create 300 Jobs

Omega Communities, a Birmingham, Ala.-based organization that develops senior living communities on land leased in partnership with faith-based organizations, is bringing its unique business model to Florida's Gulf coast.

Omega is partnering with the Church of Hope in Sarasota and the South Biscayne Church in North Port to develop two assisted living and memory care campuses in Sarasota County.

Omega works with qualified investors in the financing, development and operation of senior care facilities, which are built on land leased by local faith-based organizations. In return, the churches receive a percentage -- between 10 and 25 percent -- of the profit generated by the senior living communities.

"These senior living communities are designed from the inside out. What that means is they are built with a core mission -- a partnership with a large, community impacting church -- and that foundation becomes the center of not only the design of the facility, but more importantly, the core programmatic level of care that will be provided in that community,'' says Omega Communities COO James Taylor, Jr.

Taylor says that the project cost on each Sarasota County facility is just over $30 million, and that once both facilities are completed, the economic impact on Sarasota County is estimated to be in excess of $30 million per year.

The Springs at South Biscayne Church broke ground in January 2014, and the project is expected to reach completion in early spring 2015. The 11,000-square-foot facility will feature 38 memory care units and 95 assisted living units.

The Fountains of Hope broke ground in Sarasota earlier this month (July), with an estimated completion date in fall 2015. Between 150 to 200 jobs will be created during the construction phase, and upon completion, the 9,000-square-foot facility will require 100 fulltime employees.

"We have built a model that utilizes the very best of both the nonprofit and for-profit models for senior care communities. At the core, we've developed a partnership with the church that will provide ministry, volunteers and marketing … to provide a vital resource for the local community,'' says Taylor.

Writer: Jessi Smith
Source: James Taylor, Jr., Omega Communities

Stay Smart Solutions Launches Accessibility Pilot Project In Tampa

An Ohio-based company is running a test pilot project in Tampa to help medical providers offer a safer environment for clients and help people with diabilities caused by aging or medical conditions to more easily navigate their own homes.

Stay Smart Solutions has a three-step approach to construction and renovation modifications: assess, recommend, modify. First, they work with patients and healthcare providers to perform a comprehensive environment assessment. Next, an Occupational Therapist recommends modifications that make the most sense for the individual. Finally, a modification team installs the products.

The innovative approach is designed to make transitiions in living more successful, ultimately improving safety for patients and group home residents, while allowing individuals to remain in their own homes when possible.

"It’s not just about installing things. It’s about looking at it clinically from the inside and out to see if it’s the best thing for the customer," says Nina Corsi, director of market development for Stay Smart.

Stay Smart Solutions recognized the need after observing that many modifications to homes and businesses don't fit those challenged by accessibility issues. Simply installing items like grab bars doesn't help without first getting guidance to make sure the placement works properly for the person or people served.

The company began in 2013 with the pilot project taking place now in Tampa through building contractors and DIY stores.  

One of the company’s first clients was a gentleman who had a stroke and was returning home after several months of rehab. His wife purchased a grab bar for the shower and was planning to place it on the right side. Stay Smart’s Occupational Therapist visited the home to see how the patient was functioning. During her visit, she asked how he gets in and out of the tub. Noticing that he leans to the left, she recommended the bar go on that side. She then watched him walk down the hallway and noticed he was leaning to the right. To assist with this, custom bars were installed in the hallway that match the design of the house. 

If the initial pilot is successful, the company plans to expand to Orlando and eventually cover the State of Florida.

Writer: Megan Hendricks
Source: Nina Corsi, Stay Smart Solutions

CGHJ Architects Grows, Adds 4+ Jobs In Tampa

For more than 30 years, Curts Gaines Hall Jones Architects, Inc. has built and followed a value system of innovation and trust relationships among staff and clients. The company is now experiencing significant market growth and is adding new architects to its 11-member team.

Between 2007 and 2009, private sector development of multifamily and high-end condominiums began to slip away -- hit hard during the economic climate shift -- significantly swaying the architectural and development community and forcing CGHJ to reduce the size of its staff of 55 team members by nearly 90 percent.

"That market practically disappeared, but that’s a market we see coming back strongly. Things are changing." says Bob Hall, Executive VP of CGHJ.

By Christmas 2012, new projects began to emerge and existing projects began further developments, indicating positive change and the call for additional team members. The firm has more than doubled its staff size in recent months.

"The beginning of 2013 was when the doors started to open. By the end of the first quarter, we started looking at each other realizing that the light of the end of the tunnel was getting brighter and it seemed like it was going to stay lit. All we’ve had since then has been more indication of that," says Hall.

CGHJ attributes much of the market growth to the resurgence and community interest in urban living. Developers and residents alike are moving to pre-recession lifestyle habits, seeking out properties that place them in the heart of the city.

"It’s happening in St. Petersburg very strongly and happening in Tampa more, where people are moving out of the suburbs and close to the city core. That’s a very exciting type of project," says Gerry Curts, President & CEO.

As the firm continues to identify additional market opportunities, staff will be added to accommodate project needs.

"We have a terrific staff of seasoned, experienced architects that are coming back on board. We focus on doing things right, and have a great reputation as a result," says Hall.

For additional information on hiring opportunities, visit CGHJ online.

Writer: Kaye Brown
Source: Gerry Curts and Bob Hall, CGHJ Architects, Inc.

ODC Construction Acquires Farro Construction, Adds 50 Jobs In Tampa

Orlando-based shell construction contractor ODC Construction recently expanded its service market and acquired Tampa-based Farro Construction. The expansion brings about an integrated team of more than 500 construction experts, with plans to add 50 more skilled construction laborers by December 2013.

"This was a one-of-a-kind opportunity for both companies,'' says CEO Isaac Lidsky. "Integrating Farro Construction into ODC Tampa will guarantee ODC’s industry-leading service and quality as we continue to grow in that market.''

In June 2011, Lidsky and a team of partners acquired ODC Construction and began to set an ambitious expansion plan in motion -- including developing new projects and strengthening business relationships in Tampa Bay.

By mid-2012, ODC had launched its Tampa division which quickly grew from 2 employees to more than 100.

After developing a successful business partnership with Mike Farro, founder of Farro Construction, ODC saw a unique opportunity to further develop the Tampa market while integrating the expertise of Farro Construction’s team to continue ODC’s rapid growth.

"Farro Construction has a great reputation as a shell contractor in Tampa -- they’ve been doing it for years. We got to talking with Mike, and it was a remarkable situation. I think it was meant to be," says Lidsky.

With home prices having risen 15 percent in Tampa -- 11 percent over the last year -- ODC’s expansion plans include further cultivating the Tampa market to produce continual solid company-wide growth.

"Construction is really leading a broader economic recovery. The new home market in Tampa is a phenomenal and obvious place to be," says Lidsky.

The company additionally recently launched a new Carolina office based in Charlotte, North Carolina. Farro’s previous experience in the Charlotte market will only add value to ODC as the company continues to move forward in its growth strategy. Farro is now ODC Charlotte’s construction manager.

"I know we will do great things together. We’re just getting started," says Lidsky.

For more information on career opportunities or unique business partnerships, visit ODC’s website.

Writer: Kaye Brown
Source: Isaac Lidsky, ODC Construction

Metropolitan Ministries Grows, Adds 20 Jobs

Metropolitan Ministries plans to open the doors to MiraclePlace on North Florida Avenue in Tampa in August, and is expanding staff to accommodate growing outreach initiatives.

Listed as one of the Top Places to Work in 2013, the organization has increased its staff by 20 percent over the past year and is now adding 20 new client services team members, including social workers, resident services assistants, counselors and administration.

"We look for what we call four C’s: confidence, character, chemistry and calling. It’s critical that our team believes in what we do and believes in recovery and self-sufficiency for our clients," says Keri Howard, director of human resources.

For more than 40 years, Metropolitan Ministries has served the Tampa Bay region, providing special care for at-risk and homeless individuals and alleviating suffering through resources that instill hope, love and reconciliation.

"Over the last six years, we’ve seen a great recession take hold of many families in our community that are living paycheck to paycheck. The needs of the community have really expanded, and we’ve expanded to meet that need," says President Tim Marks.

Two years ago, Metropolitan Ministries presented a value proposition to its board that would stir local economic change and stimulate sustainability for families in crisis:

Double the organization’s capacity, serving twice as many families at just a 25 percent increase in overall expenses.

Thus, MiraclePlace was born, an initiative to stamp out homelessness while offering transitional housing, crisis counseling, life skills, and educational and career development.

Prior to MiraclePlace, more than 50 families in crisis were on the waiting list to receive housing -- a number that did not sit well with Marks.

"We just thought it was wrong. We were just disturbed that many that were on the waiting list -- 25 percent or so -- were children," says Marks.

The first phase of MiraclePlace will open in August, featuring 52 new units of housing, an early childcare education center, an expanded dining room and a new welcome center. The opening allows Metropolitan Ministries to increase capacity to serve a 20 percent growth in families living on campus.

The final phase of MiraclePlace is expected to open by March 2014, adding another 47 units of housing and leading to a transition plan for 99 additional families. As the organization meets the needs of the initiative, forward growth includes a new K through 5 school, a new gymnasium, an assembly hall, a youth activity center and additional warehousing.

"We expect to be in construction for another 24 months at the main campus. We are also trying to put together a capital campaign for Pasco County to build out a new kitchen and 24 units of housing," says Marks.

The construction of MiraclePlace will add more than 115 construction jobs as well as additional subcontract positions. As developments continue, Metropolitan Ministries will continue to engage partners, staff and volunteers.

"Our civil engineer teams will continue to be engaged with us at the main campus and some additional resources will be involved in construction in Pasco. We have a very vibrant volunteer program, and we’d like to provide more volunteers and mentors that can be involved with the day to day activities," says Marks.

For information on hiring or volunteer opportunities, unique business partnerships, or the donation process, visit Metropolitan Ministries’ website.

Writer: Kaye Brown
Sources: Tim Marks and Keri Howard, Metropolitan Ministries

Universal Window Solutions Adds Six Jobs, Sarasota

As a result of strategic business development objectives, Universal Window Solutions (UWS) has successfully expanded their operations, staff and facilities to accommodate their continuous growth. The company recently hired six new employees, invested in new service equipment, and is adding six more team members within the next six months.

After brothers Bob and Rocky Smith purchased UWS in 2000, the Sarasota-based company grew from exclusive windows and doors installation experts to a full-service distributor of windows, doors, store fronts, window films and hurricane protection products for builders, architects and homeowners.

UWS recently expanded its facility space, transitioning from a 10,000-square-foot space to a 25,000-square-foot space complete with a brand new 10,000-square-foot customer design center. The company’s original design center was a showroom where builders sent homeowners to make product selections on windows and doors for new construction projects.

"We felt like if we increased the number of products that we showed, we can enhance the experience even further," says CEO Bob Smith.

Five years ago, the company started a retail division targeting homeowners and strategically focused their efforts on growing the new line of business.

"It was a natural fit. We already had the products and services in place and started gearing our efforts toward that business. It was extremely successful and is now about 40 percent of our total sales," says Smith.

As a result of creating the design center, coupled with calculated development objectives, business grew tremendously, and the company added additional lines of business including a door shop to focus on making doors instead of purchasing them,'' Smith says. "It gave us control over quality and lead time while improving our margin."

The firm has expanded to offer exterior and interior door solutions as well as windows and pre-finished siding for homeowners and builders, extending a cost-savings to customers and allowing clients to make the majority of their project selections in one place.

"We’ve been fortunate that the products we’ve selected have been well-received by our existing customers, and it’s also drawing new customers."

Several of UWS’ manufacturers and trade partners are anticipating and encourage the company’s additional growth. "They are seeing their market share increase as we have success," says Smith.

The company is now eyeing Tampa and Naples as possible marketplaces to focus their newest expansion initiatives.

"We are having more fun with this business model than we’ve ever had before. The methodology is applicable as a business model to pick to up and drop it in a new location."

For information on hiring, products and services, visit UWS’ website.

Writer: Kaye Brown
Source: Bob Smith, Universal Window Solutions
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